School funding changes approved

Senators passed a bill April 12 that alters the state’s school aid formula and limits the amount that school districts can levy to pay for certain projects.

Introduced by Cedar Rapids Sen. Kate Sullivan on behalf of Gov. Pete Ricketts, LB959 is intended to slow the increase in property taxes, which are the main source of funding for Nebraska’s K-12 schools.

The bill eliminates the minimum levy adjustment in the state’s school aid formula beginning with the 2017-18 school fiscal year. The adjustment reduces state aid to schools with a levy below $0.95 per $100 of valuation.

It also changes an averaging adjustment that provides additional state aid to some school districts with more than 900 students. The adjustment, based on formula need per student and a district’s levy has ranged from 50 percent to 90 percent. The bill calculates the adjustment at 90 percent for all qualifying districts.

LB959 also limits existing provisions of the Qualified Capital Projects Undertaking Fund to existing projects. School districts currently can levy an additional $0.052 outside the $1.05 levy limit to fund projects related to life safety, environmental hazards, accessibility barriers and mold in existing school buildings and grounds and for new construction. New projects will be funded under a $0.03 levy and the fund may not be used for new construction.

The bill passed 47-0.

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